Now we move forward into Week 2 of this 2010 Chargers season of Press Your Luck. As we all know in Week 1, the Chargers piled up whammy after whammy in losing to the Kansas City Chiefs. I still tend to think this game was something of a fluke, what with the typhoon that brought our offense to a screeching halt, and the Chiefs fans who haven’t been that loud since Trent Green, Tony Gonzalez, Priest Holmes, and Dante Hall were terrorizing opponents (it’s the first time in years where the levels of hope and BAC were directly proportional at Arrowhead).
However, there were things that happened in that game that were definitely not a fluke, and they are things that must be fixed to prevent a second straight weekend of whammies.
Below the jump is a list of things that I will be watching for (on NFL Redzone’s free weekend and the game replay on NFL Network).
Last Week = Big Bucks!
For me, the single best thing coming out of that game on Monday night was Dombrowski’s performance. To be perfectly honest, I’d forgotten about Marcus McNeill about 2 series into the game. He did a solid job handling Tamba Hali, and this week he gets another test playing opposite Jaguars DE/OLB Aaron Kampman. If he is able to handle Kampman, then I think all of us can just forget about McNeill for the rest of the season. However, if Kampman forces the Chargers to provide help on the left side, we will see an offense that is playing with another hand tied behind its back.
Last Week = Need more spins
Can we be honest and consider the possibility that we were all too fast to drink the "we don’t need Vincent Jackson Kool Aid?" I think that later this season, that Kool Aid will be perfectly brewed and ready for consumption. However, it was not ready for consumption in Week 1, even without the typhoon that blew through Arrowhead on Monday night, and we should have expected that. Floyd, Naanee and Davis simply haven’t been on the field enough for Philip Rivers to know exactly where they will be from play to play. Their routes are just different enough, their speed is just different enough, and their experience is just low enough to throw a wrench into the offense.
This (and the weather) allowed Chiefs’ Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel to focus on taking Antonio Gates completely out of the game, via double team, bracket coverage, and triple coverage. Just like the 1st half of 2007, when teams took Gates away, and the Chargers offense struggled because Rivers didn’t fully trust his receivers before Chris Chambers arrived via trade, and Jackson grew into a legitimate threat.
Floyd, Naanee, and Davis occasionally beat the Chiefs’ secondary, but to get Gates some room to operate going forward, they must consistently make defenses pay for playing them man-to-man. They got extra spins last week due to the weather, but a similar performance this week will result in whammies.
Last Week = Need more spins
Ryan Mathews’ debut last week was hampered by a few factors last week. One was the weather, another was rookie fumbleitis, and the last was the 2nd half deficit. We know weather won’t be a factor this week in San Diego, so let’s focus on ball security. Mathews’ fumble was a classic case of a rookie not protecting the ball in traffic, and I imagine that the offensive staff has been on his case this week in film study. Mathews’ fumble was a critical mistake in Week 1, and he needs to show that he’s learned from that mistake. That should help the Chargers get a 2nd half lead, which will then result in additional chances for Mathews to pound the rock.
Last Week = Stopped by a Whammy
No I’m not talking about the weather here. I’m talking about that meltdown in the 3rd quarter. I love Rivers as much as the rest of you, and as much as the rest of the NFL universe hates him. However, you can not air out your entire offense – on the field, in the 3rd quarter of game you’re losing by 2 touchdowns, especially when you’re not having your best game – whether the offense deserves it or not. Philip, save those ass chewings for the sideline, locker room, practice field, or film study – especially since you can only get away with one of those meltdowns each season before you start losing players. On the field, let it go for the moment and move on to the next play.
Last Week = Stopped by 4 whammies
I’m wondering whether will all made a mistake in assuming that Hardwick would be back to something near Pro Bowl form, considering he missed about an entire season of play. Hardwick looked rusty, tired, and overmatched on Monday against Glenn Dorsey (whose lunch he’d eaten in 2008). Additionally, he had issues getting the snap to Rivers before the shot clock expired on multiple occasions, which is… unacceptable from a former Pro Bowl player entering his 7th season. Very simply, Hardwick has to play a lot better on Sunday, or I think the Chargers will have to consider putting Mooch back in the middle.
Last Week = Stopped by 4 whammies
Where to begin with this group. The Javier Arenas return that should have gone for a touchdown, but for a great Mike Scifres tackle (this tackle was the play that kept us in the game)? The 94-yard punt return touchdown by Dexter McCluster? Good kickoff returns by McCluster and Arenas that allowed the Chiefs to control the field position battle all game long? The Chargers’ failure to down 2 punts inside the Chiefs’ 10 yard line? This unit had EPIC FAIL written all over it on Monday night, and must perform better if the Chargers are to have a chance at winning, regardless of the opponent.
Late addition: For the first time since I was in high school, David Binn will not be the long-snapper on Sundays. This means I will actually have to play attention on every 4th down punt and/or field goal attempt. The whammy potential here, in what I think will be a close game, is unnervingly high.
Last Week = 1 whammy
What’s disturbing about the Chargers’ run defense is that Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera has to dial up some fairly exotic linebacker blitzes, twists, and stunts to stuff the opponents’ running game. This is because, once again, the defensive line is failing to occupy blockers at the point of attack. There is a two-fold problem here… one is that sending linebackers to attack on run downs opens you up to obvious play-action opportunities, the other is that if the attack is blocked, running backs with vision and burst can exploit a small opening and turn it into a long-distance touchdown. This was the case for Jamaal Charles last week, and this week, the Chargers have another such runner against them in Maurice Jones-Drew. The defense has been mostly stout versus the run, but they have to contain the home-run running plays.
Last Week = 1 whammy
Aside from Shaun Phillips’ sack on the Chiefs opening possession, there wasn’t a lot of heat on Matt Cassel. This was the Chargers very best chance to get back in the game, but the lack of pressure helped Cassel from beating the Chiefs (yes, the Chiefs) with errant thows, fumble opportunities, and interceptions. The pass rush has to get better at forcing opposing QBs into making poor decisions with the football. If Merriman isn’t ready to go, then it will be past time to see Larry English, Jyles Tucker, and Antwan Applewhite get after Jaguars’ QB David Garrard.
Jacksonville’s offensive line, like Kansas City’s, is suspect. Jacksonville’s receivers, like Kansas City’s, are suspect. However, Jaguars’ Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter is a vertical passing coach who likes to push the ball upfield – as opposed to Charlie Weis’ spread-dink-dunk style of play. This means longer routes, more time for Garrard to hold the ball, and more chances for the Chargers to hit Garrard and force mistakes. I expect that Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason will hold up well for the 1st 3-4 seconds of each pass play. If the pass rush forces them to cover longer than that, it could be a long afternoon.
Offensively, the Jaguars are a poor-man’s San Diego on offense, down to the design and players, excepting Maurice Jones-Drew and David Garrard’s scrambling ability. The Chargers defense must stop Jones-Drew from keeping the Jaguars offense on schedule, and give the pass rush a chance to attack Garrard on 2nd and 3rd and long. If the pass rush fails, I think this game will be a shootout.
On offense, the Chargers have to get some explosive plays from the Floyd/Naanee/Davis trio early in the game. This will open space for Gates underneath and give Mathews a chance to control the clock in the 2nd half. Also worth watching will be Dombrowski vs. Kampman. If Dombrowski holds up well, and forces limited blocking adjustments by Rivers and Hardwick, the Chargers offense can control this game. Otherwise, their options will be somewhat limited. I also wouldn’t be shocked to occasionally see Jacksonville send some blitzers at Ryan Mathews.
And obviously, any special teams mistakes will prove costly.
I think the Chargers will win, but not easily, I’m thinking 30-20, with a score late to ice the game.